Organizations band together to help increasing number of homeless

You don’t usually see homeless people sleeping on park benches or under overpasses in this county; but they are here.

They, along with their children and maybe even their dogs, are sleeping in cars, in tents on park grounds or packed in with relatives where they are not really welcome.

The number of the homeless has increased dramatically in the last year. The three agencies of the Shelby County Alliance for the Homeless: Shelby Emergency Assistance, SafeHouse and Family Connections, reported their 2008 records showed a 40–50 percent increase in the number of requests for services.

Most of these victims of homelessness have heart-wrenching stories they are reluctant to share. I visited a lady who had just moved into a barely basic scantily–furnished trailer. She had led a self-sufficient life until, while visiting here, suffered an aneurism and had to be hospitalized for two months. When she was released from the hospital, she and her two sons had no money aside from her monthly SSI payment of $674. She had no job, no automobile and no place to live. SEA assisted her with the first month’s rent, utility deposits and food. All of her problems are not behind her, but she commented, “I’ve never before had a time I didn’t have my own door. I’m just happy to have a place.”

SEA, whose mission is to help those in crisis, reported a more than 50 percent increase in requests from the homeless for assistance in 2008. SafeHouse is dedicated to providing services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; virtually all of their clients are homeless and need a place to live where they can be protected. Family Connection, in 2008, provided a haven for 53 homeless young people who might have been kicked out of their homes or had run away.

SEA Director Karen Pendleton said

“The collaboration of the Alliance, along with assistance from the County Manager’s office, has allowed all three agencies to develop better services for the homeless and to obtain needed grant funding for these services. That said, with the current economic conditions, we are expecting to see more and more families dealing with job layoffs and mortgage foreclosure. That will mean the demands for the services of all three agencies will be much greater in this next year.”

Contributions may be sent to SEA at 620 Valley St., Montevallo, Ala. 35115; Family Connection, Inc., P O Box 535, Saginaw, Ala. 35137; and SafeHouse, P O Box 620, Columbiana, Ala. 35051.

Those in need may contact SEA at 665-1942, Family Connection 664-CARE, or the SafeHouse crisis line 669-7233.